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Best Buy uses augmented reality platform to reach shoppers

Brightkite and Layar have been providing augmented reality services since August, but consumers could only see posts and photos from their friends. The new local advertising service lets businesses show special offers in nearby stores.

“We don’t believe that mobile Web banners or SMS message appends are the killer ad unit that will see mobile marketing break through to mainstream, and so we continue to try to create and test new ad units that are uniquely powerful on a mobile device,” said Rob Lawson, chief marketing officer of Brightkite, Burlingame, CA.

“For Brightkite it combines our objectives of user ultra-targeting plus location targeting and a novel, immersive ad unit,” he said. “For marketers it provides an efficient way to reach consumers when they are engaged in relevant behaviors in the real world.”

Brightkite lets users meet people around them and keep up with their friends, as well as explore and discover new places. More than 2 million people use Brightkite’s free service every month.

Augmented reality is the overlay of images on the real-world via an application that uses a mobile device’s camera.

Breaking through the clutter
Best Buy is the only brand serving an augmented reality campaign at the moment.

Brightkite said Best Buy was not promoting a specific product, rather the electronics retailer wanted to drive consumer traffic to stores.

Consumers were directed to the standard Best Buy WAP landing page, and there was also a link to drive consumers to a map of where to find the closest retail location.

Brightkite said new partnerships with businesses such as retailers, bars and restaurants will let consumers see store data and local offers.

The company said that this ad unit is novel for consumers, since it shows offers that are relevant and nearby.

Retailers can use the platform to break through the clutter of holiday ad campaigns and reach shoppers directly.

Marketers can target by demographic, by activity (such as people who are shopping), by location, by weather and using other criteria.

This augmented reality campaign is running on the Brightkite service through the end of December and is available for both Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android  devices.

Mr. Lawson said for augmented reality to gain widespread acceptance as an ad platform, consumers need devices with GPS and a compass.

“By combining location awareness with augmented reality, we have created a unit that gives marketers a very direct and novel advertising opportunity that can reach consumers while they are out and about in the real world,” Mr. Lawson said. “In December, this means that they can reach people while they are actually shopping for gifts.

“Couple this with local offers and powerful targeting capabilities, and marketers have something that breaks through clutter and traditional techniques,” he said.